The Start of a New Life: D.C. to Cleveland (Part 1)

The day had finally arrived! After months of planning, and saving, we were finally going to hit the road. Our adventure had officially started and it still seemed so surreal. August, 4th will forever be engraved in our minds as the day we started our “NEW LIFE”.

First stop was Washington, D.C. Instead of hitching a ride out of NYC (NYC is just to congested and it’s illegal to hitchhike there apparently) we decided to take a four hour Megabus ride to D.C.  In D.C., we did all the touristy things, such as visiting the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Holocaust Museum, etc. and though this was the first stop on our trip, it didn’t feel like it was part of our adventure. Why? Mainly, because it felt like we were there to visit for a weekend and two days later we would head back to our old lifestyle. However, that feeling disappeared the second I put my thumb out for the first time.

Ben & Jazzy in front of the Washington Monument

Rocky First Start

After being in D.C. for two days, Ben and I set out to hitch our first ride heading to Cleveland, Ohio. D.C. was a great transition for us but it was time to get on the road. We were excited. Our hearts were pumping and our minds were racing about the endless possibilities, the things that could go wrong and all the great things that could happen.

Before we hitched our first ride, we checked on Hitchwiki for any suggestive areas we should hitch from. It advised us to take the Orange Metro to the last stop, Vienna, and then take a connector bus to an on-ramp to I-66 outside of D.C. But of course, Ben and I didn’t listen. We can be a little hardheaded sometimes.

After getting off at Vienna, we realized that the train ran along side the I-66, so we thought why the hell would Hitchwiki tell us to take another bus, which we would have to pay for (D.C. Metro is a complex and expensive train system) just to get on the I-66 when I-66 was right there. So we decided to ignore Hitchwiki’s advise and try our luck on an on-ramp that was located right outside of the train station.

Jazzy hitching a ride

We soon realized we were in a bad spot. There was little to no traffic and no space for a car to pull over if they were interested in giving us a ride. However, we said what the heck, let’s give it a try. After watching cars pass us by for I don’t know how long, we agreed that maybe we should take the bus to the on-ramp as Hitchwiki suggested.

So, we went back to the station, found the bus number and waited for the bus. Something told me to check the bus schedule for the next bus and to my wonderful surprise both the 632 and the 642 bus (which we were advised to take) weren’t scheduled to arrive for another 2 1/2  hours. This had to be a joke. There is no ducking way a bus takes two and a half hours to get somewhere. (I guess not everything can run as frequent as in NYC or Boston)

It was already 1:50p.m. and we haven’t even left the station yet. Mind you, we got out of the station at 12:30p.m. and now we had to wait another 2 1/2 hours.

Nope, I don’t think so.

So we checked the map for another bus that would lead us somewhat close to where the 632 or 642 would have dropped us off. But of course that bus wouldn’t be at Vienna for another 1 1/2 hours. I guess that’s what we get for not following directions. Anyway, we debated whether we should test our luck and try to hitch a ride from the on-ramp right outside of the station where cars could not pull over or wait 1 1/2 hours for this bus.

We chose to wait, after all, waiting and hitchhiking goes hand in hand with each other. Patience is a virtue, so I have been told.

The 640 bus finally arrived around 2:30, and it took us 15 mins to get to the stop where we wanted to go to. Time was ticking away and we wanted to get at least to the next highway intersection (I-81) before the sun sets. But clearly that was not going to happen because we wasted so much time waiting for a bus that took us only 15 mins out.

Now it was time to really start hitchhiking.

After Ben made our first cardboard sign, “I-66 WEST” (yup, I know real basic, but it gets to the point) we found the “perfect spot” to hitch from, so we thought.

It was 83 degrees outside but it felt like 98, plus I didn’t pack a hat, so it felt even hotter to me. The sun was beaming down on us, and we were sweating bullets as cars and trucks just passed us by.

After a while we realized that this spot was not as perfect as we thought. We were at the corner of a highway leading to another highway which meant cars were going way to fast to be able to stop for us and there was no traffic light to stop the cars, which would’ve worked in our benefit.

Ben ended up scanning the area for a better spot as I continued to hitch for our first ride. Ben walked off for about 5 mins before he came running back saying he found a spot that was not only great for cars to pull over but that there was also a traffic light that drivers had to wait for. Jackpot!

Nothing like the First Ride

As we were walking to our “jackpot spot”, a man in a red mini van, waiting at the traffic light screamed out of his window and asked me where we were heading? I quickly replied, “I-66W”, but unfortunately he was heading in a different direction. For a second, he got my hopes up. Either way, I said “Thank you” and ran to catch up to Ben.

We finally reached the spot and the sun was no joke, it was only getting hotter but we weren’t going to let this heat stop us, we were determined to get the first ride.

Ben was on the emergency stopping lane (shoulder) with his thumb out and our sign high and visible enough for everyone to see. I was standing just a few feet behind him with my thumb out when he turned around and said maybe you should make a funny sign. So, I made a sign that read “WE WON’T BITE !! HAVE A NICE DAY !” (not to funny but they got the point, it was too hot for me to be funny or sarcastic)

We won't bite sign

We watched as cars passed by, drivers nodded in acknowledgement, or shaked their head indicating that they are not going in the same direction. I also saw a couple of drivers laughing as they read my sign but no one actually stopped. We started hitchhiking at this spot at 3:17 and at 3:51 we still had no ride.

A minute later, we heard someone hollering at us, trying to get our attention from up the street, about 40 feet from where we were. We quickly grabbed our bags and ran to the car.

The next step, is probably the most difficult but also the most essential part of hitchhiking. You only have about 10 seconds to size up the situation, figure out where the driver is going, if they can take you to a spot that won’t leave you stranded, get their license plate number, get the model of the car and determine whether you want to ride with this person or not. Don’t forget, the driver also has the same amount of time to size you up and determine whether he or she wants to give you a ride.

As we ran to the car with our bags, I memorized the license plate number, and stopped on the passenger side where the door was already opened for us. In the car, was a female driver and in the back was her daughter, who seemed very excited to see us. Though the driver wasn’t heading in our direction, she offered to take us to the nearest rest stop on I-66W. It was really nice of her to not only stop but also to go out of her way to get us closer to our destination. (We later found out that she had to make a 4:00 appointment, and she still stopped for us. Wonderful lady.) I guess lady lucky was finally on our side.

We got in and closed the doors behind us. With seat-belts buckled, and doors locked, this was it, there was no turning back. We did it. We hitched our first ride. This was the start of something different, a challenge, and an adventure but most of all it was the start of our new life !!!

Continue Reading: The Start of a New Life: D.C. to Cleveland (Part 2)

The Author

Jazzy is a professional travel blogger and the chief editor of Road Affair. She has been traveling around the world with her partner in crime, Ben, since 2012.

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    1. Thanks Renee, for immediate updates on where we are, follow us on instagram and twitter. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog.

      Best Wishes, Jazzy :)

  1. I drove back out about 7:15 and u were already gone…DD was nervous for u.
    Absolute pleasure to have helped for a few miles out of ur 1k.

    1. Oh, wow. Thank you!! You are so awesome. We ended up waiting for about 2hrs because everyone supposedly was going to the next exit. Finally, around 6:15 someone gave us a ride to the Marshal exit, which was a couple of miles away from the rest stop. No need to be nervous, we meet some amazing people along the way. Everyone so far has been great to us. Thanks again for kicking off our adventure !!!

  2. They outlawed hitch-hiking in Canada years ago after a spate of murders along the Trans Canada Highway. It’s very interesting you have written about the experience, but I seriously doubt I’d ever try it myself.

    1. We did read about that during our research on hitchhiking, but you can’t always let the negative stories outweigh the good ones. We never hear about the countries that actually embrace hitchhiking and even encourage their citizens to hitchhike.

      And hey you never know what can happen. I never thought in a million years I would go hitchhiking but look at me now. Crazy !

  3. Whaaaaaat?! I couldn’t even imagine hitchhiking. At least not in the US. I feel like it has been so engrained in my being to never pick up a hitchhiker. But I’m glad you found a kind soul! I once picked up a hitchhiker in Ireland (with friends) and it was definitely one of my more uncomfortable experiences in life… ha!

    1. Hitchhiking is definitely one of those things that is a taboo in the U.S these days. But it is definitely worth the experience once you finally get into it. Don’t let one bad experience ruin the great possibilities that hitchhiking can provide.

  4. I feel like I’m reading a novel! I have always wanted to do something like this and you guys are such an inspiration! I will definitely be checking back frequently for updates.

  5. This sounds simply awesome, so refreshing to hear about all the ins and outs of a story including the thing that didn’t go to plan. I would love to have the balls to do something like this! Good luck x

  6. Wow, so interesting! I don’t know much about hitchhiking, but while I was in DC once, I met a guy that had hitchhiked there all the way from LA! I didn’t get much of his story, but judging from yours, it had to have been a tough feat!

    1. The toughest part is the waiting, after that it’s somewhat easier. The drivers that are nice enough to pick you up, are the people that make it easier.

  7. Man Jazzy both u and Ben are really brave. Am so worried for you two. But you guys seem to be enjoying life. Part of me wish had enough guts to do this… Lol keep posting love u

    1. I can’t speak for everyone, Bd but I think it was fine for me. Granted we did believe that it would be a lot harder (maybe even say dangerous) in the southern states (but we never made it there) as well as Ohio but it turned out fine for us. Also, a lot of the individuals that picked us up were African American.

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